Tuesday, January 25th, 2022

A man making a brand new NES game in 2021

Image: Lowtek Games

Alastair Low wasn’t born when NES was first released in the UK. But after picking up Nintendo’s 8-bit wonder machine for car trunk sales in the mid-1990s, he enjoyed much of his childhood. “I remember getting a NES with a £ 3 ROB and a gun in the box,” he says. “The bloodyness of the time was amazing.” The console was far from what it is today, but he loved the car. But when he upgraded to the Super Nintendo, he ran into some problems.

Alastair suffers from dyslexia and finds it almost impossible to read the text. “I remember playing The Legend of Zelda,” he gives an example. “But I didn’t read the name” Zelda “because I’m really dyslexic. “.” Later, when he got the Ocarina of Time on the N64, he was unaware that it was part of the same series until he started playing.

His deafness wasn’t a problem in common textlight games in the 8-bit era, but many games since the 16-bit era could be nearly unplayable due to the dramatic increase in word count. I have. “It’s great between Atari and the NES, and since the Super Nintendo they have had enough memories to hold a novel,” he says.

The rise of the text meant that Alastair had to give up the hope of playing, or at least understanding, some of the biggest hits in games like FINAL FANTASY VII. He cites Telltale’s Walking Dead title as a notorious example of a game that has parts that are essentially impossible for people with dyslexia. “It would be great for a dyslexic player to be able to pause the game at that point,” he says. “And you can argue that non-dyslexic players will take advantage of it, but who really cares if that means more people will be able to play it? May be an opt-in that is not turned on for everyone by default. “

Fortunately, some games have significantly improved accessibility for dyslexic players. In particular, the rise of text-to-speech options, where games read text aloud in menus and other options, is a huge boon, says Alastair. “Assassin’s Creed Valhara did something really amazing,” he says. “They have a virtual cursor that you can move around, and it reads whatever you hover over. That’s awesome.”

Alastair quit his job at mobile developer Ninja Kiwi and founded Lowtek Games. Part of the studio’s job is to provide accessibility features for people with dyslexia.

Currently, Alastair is advising other indie developers on how to make their games suitable for dyslexia. “Dyslexia manifests differently in different people,” says Alastair, but he believes there are some simple things developers can do to make the game more accessible. In addition to presenting the dialog with a short skippable snippet, he suggested that the text should be in case of the sentence instead of all uppercase, and the developer should use an easy-to-read sans-serif font. I am.

Last year, Alastair quit his job at mobile developer Ninja Kiwi Lowtek game, And part of the studio’s job is to provide accessibility features for people with dyslexia. Alastair has developed a Unity plugin called Dislectek This allows developers to easily add text suitable for dyslexia to the game. But he’s also creating a dyslexia-friendly game for his beloved console, the NES.

Alastair was interested in creating his own games for some time before he discovered it. NESmaker, A simple program that makes it easy for anyone to create games for Nintendo’s 8-bit consoles. He used to come up with the concept of a game in which the protagonist automatically jumps constantly and even demos mobile phones, but now he has switched his design work to NES. Flea! born.

“The reason I brought fleas was because I thought frogs and rabbits were already covered in the game industry,” Alastair explained, saying that only one other game with fleas as the main character could be considered. I added. Desperate flea At Super Nintendo. In addition, this small parasite ideally fits into an “always jumping” mechanism. With this mechanism, the player carefully guides the insects hopping above and below the deadly spikes to collect blood.

The forced boredom of the national blockade in early 2020 gave him time to complete it. “COVID helped me finish it because I was staying at night to do all levels of design,” says Alastair. “It really got over it. Otherwise it would have taken longer.”

COVID helped me finish it because I was staying at night when I was designing all levels. It really crossed it: otherwise it would have taken longer.

But Alastair goes one step further than just creating NES games that can be played on the PC. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, we’ve created a limited number of real NES cartridges to allow gamers to play the Flea. The original console (or the latest consoles such as RetroN and Analogue NT). But how do you make a console cartridge that was discontinued about 26 years ago?

“I was going to procure it all myself. Buy a cart from AliExpress and a board from. Infinite NES lives, And have someone called Frank in the United States print the boxes and manuals, “says Alastair. “Then I realized that sending everything to me and then back to America would be very expensive, because the majority of people who were buying things were in America. Then, during Kickstarter , Broke Studio I sent a message, and they were able to make it so cheap, and they treated everything like distribution as well. Broke Studio is a French developer and publisher founded in 2017 to exclusively create and distribute new games for older consoles, and obsolete game consoles such as Limited Run Games and Strictly Limited Games.

With the help of Broke Studio, making Flea wasn’t cheap. cartridge. The retail price is £ 50 and for color cartridges £ 60. Even at that price, Alastair believes that the rate of return is about the same as for the much cheaper digital version of the game. But he thinks the effort of making a cartridge is worth it. And there’s no shortage of collectors trying to buy them – Alastair himself believes the collection contains more homebrew NES games than the original releases of the 80’s and 90’s.

Lowtek Games has followed up with Flea!In a disco-themed puzzle game Tapeworm, Was successfully funded on Kickstarter earlier this year. And Alastair is planning more NES games set in the world of fleas. “I have some ideas, such as some shooters and something like a lost viking that you play like any other character.”

Still, he recognizes that making games for ancient consoles is unlikely to become a mainstream phenomenon. “I think it’s going to be a niche. I think there are more people who have started it. Then Kickstarter may start to decline or the quality may go down. Everyone goes. I need only a few bad kickstarters, “No.” “

Still, he is enjoying the resurgence of NES game development for now. In particular, we are building a collection of NES games made by contemporary people. “It’s hurt my wallet a bit. But there’s something about it being a game made by people I know. There’s something good about it.”

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Image: Lowtek Games